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Does my child need a tutor?

This is a question that we get from parents all the time. They browse what we have to offer and begin a conversation unsure if their child really needs a tutor.

Our overwhelming answer is yes.

Here are 5 reasons your child needs a tutor:

1. A tutor is so much more than just someone to help with their homework. Your child’s tutor will be a mentor, role model and friend that will help them see what they are truly capable of achieving. When I was in mid-High School and my parents got me a tutor, the biggest help was not the detailed maths solutions but the fact that this person believed in me and cared for me. That let me see what I could actually do if I put my mind to it. What we do is so much more than just marks.

2. For your own sanity. One of the main reasons that parents turn to us to help their child is to reduce the conflict in the home. Trying to get your kids to do their homework is challenging and a constant grind on the relationship. It’s not just homework, but trying to get them to apply themselves and understand the importance of school – this coming from a parent goes in one ear and out the other. But from a tutor – someone young, interesting and that actually cares for them – those words will carry significant weight.

3. The schooling system does not cater for your child’s unique learning style. Overpacked classrooms have become standard these days, making it very difficult for your teacher to understand the unique learning styles of your child. This is no criticism of teachers – they do an incredible job – but it means students can so easily slip through the gaps. Interestingly enough I see this more in advanced students than those who struggle. If student fall behind they have remedial programs to help them – but advanced students are rarely given a chance to perform at their full potential. Our tutors customise every lesson around the unique level and learning style of your child, ensuring their unique learning styles are targeted.

4. The HSC is a competition, and if they don’t have a tutor they are disadvantaged. Like it or not, the HSC has changed. The ATAR, the number that gets them into University, is now a ranking and not a raw mark. It means that they are not just competing against students in their class, but against students at schools across the state: including schools that have huge budgets and endless resources to help their students come out on top. Not having a tutor is like entering a marathon where everyone else gets someone to sub with, but you are all on your own. You’ll get tired trying to do it on your won, while they can depend on someone else when they need them. A tutor has become a necessity in the HSC.

5. Because interpersonal skills are the currency of the future. I read an article this week that Sydney city has embedded traffic lights in to the ground to warn those who are staring at their phones that the light is red. I laugh at this, but I am just as guilty of doing it! Every year we move further and further from the real world and in to this tiny tech bubble where we can so easily shut out the people around us. Now imagine what life is going to be like in 5/10/15 years when your child gets our of school and in to the real world! As information becomes readily available, I believe qualifications will not be valued like they are now, and the only differentiator will be the ability to relate to people. It is the only thing that can’t be replaced by a machine! By pairing your child with a tutor once a week now, they will be learning incredible interpersonal skills that will help them later in life.

Does your child need a tutor? Absolutely yes. I have never met a student that wouldn’t benefit from the support of a private tutor.

Book your first free session with Alchemy Tuition today and set your child up for success.

How much does your dream cost?

This is one for the students.

I want you to imagine for a moment that you’ve made it. You’ve achieved the dream.

What does it feel like?

What does it feel like as you stand on the top podium at the olympics, the crowd roaring and shouting your name?

Or what does it feel like as you stand back stage, microphone in hand, getting ready to sing your songs to a packed stadium of 50,000 fans?

Or maybe you’re not a musician, but you are about to walk out in front of that crowd and deliver your first speech as Prime Minister?

What does it feel like to pass the bar exam as a lawyer, knowing you are now going to be able to make a difference in the world by fighting for human rights around the world?

Or what does it feel like opening a letter in the mail that tells you you’ve been accepted to the University course of your dreams?

I ask these questions because there is one thing that connects all these dreams together: they all come with a price tag.

Any dream you have in life is going to cost something. It is going to cost time, money, focus, commitment, sacrifice…

The real question is how much does your dream cost – and how much are you willing to pay to achieve it?


5 ways to improve your child’s attitude towards school

If your son or daughter has a negative perspective on schooling it can make everything hard: getting them out of bed in the morning through to getting them to do some homework in the afternoon – the simplest tasks can become serious issues.

Our attitude will always determine how we approach things, so especially when we are dealing with something as important as education it is crucial to get right. A poor attitude towards school can result in a downward spiral that needs to be prevented as early as possible.

Here are 5 steps you can take to improve your child’s attitude:

1. Attempt to identify the root of the problem.

This may be much easier said than done, but this should be the first step you take – try to work out why your child has developed a negative attitude in the first place. In my experience it is usually one of three things:

  • Falling behind in class

This was me in early High School. I really struggled in maths and consequentially I developed a really salty attitude towards the subject – I refused to do homework and eventually stopped going to the class altogether. It was only when my parents got me a tutor to catch up with my class that my attitude changed.

  • Differences with peers

If there is conflict between your child and their friends, or they feel isolated/lonely at school this can be a great source of resentment for school.

  • Conflicting learning style to teacher

If your child doesn’t like their teacher, they can quickly develop a poor attitude to school. They almost enjoy being disengaged because they feel it is ‘sticking it’ to their teacher.

If you can work out what the problem is, it will make overcoming that attitude much easier.

2. Increase their involvement in school based extra-curricular activities.

Most schools offer a ton of extra-curricular activities that can be really easy to get involved in. They are great for students because they usually feature small groups and allow student’s unique skills to shine through. It could be band or sport or debating or chess – anything that your child is remotely interested in; get them involved.

3. Encourage their in-school social life.

Take an active role in their social life by taking the time to meet their friends. Have them over for dinner and build relationships with them. Caring about your children’s friends is a great way of showing your kids you really care about them.

4. Organise a tutor as a mentor.

Back to my first point, it was the support of a private tutor that changed my bad attitude in early high school. All our tutors are hand-selected for their ability to be incredible role-models, so will be able to work one-on-one with your child and make a real difference not just in their marks, but in their level of confidence and overall attitude.

5. Communicate with the school.

Your child’s teacher may notice things that you don’t so it can’t hurt to talk to them. While this is getting harder as classes get fuller every year, your child’s teacher should still be able to identify significant changes in their personality, application and attitude.

These are 5 seemingly simple steps – but obviously every child is unique, and what will work for one won’t always work for another. Hopefully these are some ideas to get the conversation happening and ultimately make everyone’s lives much easier!


Selective School Exam Preparation: How soon is too soon?

The 2016 Selective School exam has just passed, so it means the 2017 exam is now a year away! And right on cue, we’ve been flooded with parents looking for tutors to help their children get prepared for the selective school test.

One of the main questions we get is this: How far in advance should I start getting my child ready for the exam?

The selective test is infamously hard: most adults struggle with it. It is also fiercely competitive. A comprehensive preparation program is absolutely crucial for a student to succeed; natural ability won’t take a student through alone.

So how soon is too soon to start getting your child prepared?

We have had students on both ends of the spectrum: some that start 2 years ahead of the exam, and some that come to us 6 weeks out. Regardless of actual results, I can tell you which students (and parents!) are more confident and calm going in to the exam!

And to be honest, that is reason enough to give your child as much preparation as they can handle. Could you technically cram a preparation program in to 6 weeks? Sure, but it will be rushed and things will be brushed over and missed. Giving it plenty of time will allow your child to build confidence and walk in to that exam knowing that they are fully equipped for whatever it throws at them.

The optimum time to begin a preparation program for the selective school exam is at least 9 months ahead of the exam (so term 2 of year 5). It is the ‘sweet spot’ where we see the greatest results. More than 9 months is even better, but less than that seems to be sub-optimal.

If you are considering a selective school for your child, this is a perfect time to get your tutor organised. Book your first free session today and let Alchemy set your child up for success in the selective school test.


How will you look back on your HSC?

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. But it can also be terrifying.

I want you to imagine for a moment that you are 10 years in the future – 10 years beyond the HSC. What does looking back at your HSC year feel like?

Will it be one of great achievement, fuelled by focus and determination? Or will it be one that you look back on with disappointment and regret, wishing you could do it over again?

It is not too late – you are still at the point where you can change this outcome. I’ve said it a million times and I will say it again; the HSC is not about natural talent – it about hard work, focus and discipline – three things you have complete control over.

Make the choice today to make future you proud.


How to make your students feel comfortable

It is said that we come to conclusions about people within the first 7 seconds of meeting them. Do we like them? Do we feel uncomfortable around them? Do they make us feel valued?

First impressions are so important. When it comes to a first impression, everything matters; body language, tone of voice, what you say, how you respond. I’m sure we’ve all had bad first experiences with people – where they were too distracted to look you in the eye, or mumbled their name so quietly you didn’t catch it. Likewise we’ve all had amazing experiences where the person feels like our best friend in the first five minutes.

As a tutor, our jobs are so much more than just having knowledge about a subject. If all a student wanted was information they could probably google it or find it on Youtube. They are looking for a human connection – someone who they can relate to and connect with.

Making our students feel comfortable needs to be one of the first things we do as tutors. Here are 3 ways to make your students feel comfortable within 5 minutes of every session.


Few things disarm someone like a smile. A smile lets someone know they are valued and you are excited to see them. Always smile when you meet someone for the first time – it makes such a big difference!

Mirroring their level of energy

A well known NLP strategy, mirroring builds trust and increased familiarity. Mirroring is all about meeting a person at their current energy level. If they are really energetic, then you need to be too. If they are mellow, you need to be too. Subconsciously, when someone is similar to us, we trust them – allowing us to feel comfortable instantly.

Caring about their lives

A student may expect a tutor to care about nothing more than getting good marks, so if you actually take an interest in their world it will catch them off guard and they will begin to trust you. I always try to find one thing in common with the student I work with within the first 5 minutes. This could be simple – that we did the same subject at school, or it could be a shared passion for a sport, TV show or band. Care about your student and they will feel comfortable.

3 small actions, but they will go a long way in helping your student feel instantly comfortable.

Make it count!


A summary of the upcoming changes to the HSC syllabus

The Board of Studies (or BOSTES as they are now called) recently released a list of changes to the HSC syllabus that will affect every student that goes through year 12 from 2018 and beyond.*

I wanted to give a quick summary to provide parents a glimpse of how things are changing and how this will affect your child (but if you would like to read the entire press release you can do so here.)

Renewed emphasis on depth of learning rather than simply remembering facts and quotes.

This is one I welcome with open arms! Too many subjects reward students who can remember the best, rather than those who have the strongest understanding or knowledge. They will be changing the focus of exams to make them feel more like a conversation than a one way list of facts.

Moving away from the area of study

For as long as I can remember, HSC English has featured an area of study around a usually gimmicky topic – Discovery, Belonging, Journeys, Identity. The problem with this is that students were required to view every text through a specific set of lenses, even if that wasn’t the original intention or message. In the new syllabus they will be focussing on quality literature for what it is rather than trying to find a specific theme in it, with further emphasis on writing skills, grammar and depth.

Maths will get harder sooner

Students often complain that the jump from year 10 maths to year 11 maths is too significant. The new syllabus will be introducing year 11 and 12 topics at the year 9 and 10 level, such as calculus and complex statistics, as a way of preparing students for higher level maths. There will also be further integration with technology in maths – with student having to explore topics such as how google works.

A huge makeover for Science

The science curriculum is perhaps the biggest scheduled change – which I guess makes sense seeing as scientific studies constantly progress and develop. There will be all new topics in the HSC courses of Biology, Physics and Chemistry, and the addition of an extension science subject.

Overall it seems a great step towards actually equipping students for the future. It seems they have seen the needs in our country for the next 50 years and adapted accordingly. Well done BOSTES, well done!

What does this mean for your child?

Any large shake up like this sends up a cloud of uncertainty – not only from the student level but also the teaching level. Teachers will have to learn new topics – which in many ways will be more challenging that it is for the students!

I know many English teachers who have done the same 4 English texts for the HSC for the last 10+ years. Suddenly they are going to have to do something completely new!

I think that at times like this there has never been a more valuable time to have a private tutor. With competition tougher than ever, and a whole lot of uncertainty, a private tutor will help give students confidence that they are on the right path.

If you have a student in year 10 or below, these changes will affect them directly, so get a head start by organising your tutor today.

*some of these changes will happen gradually over the next few years, but will all be in play by 2020.

Looking to the future with you and your family,


Does NAPLAN really matter?

There are about 12 weeks until the NAPLAN exams, and already we’ve noticed a surge in parents requesting a tutor to help prepare their child for the exam.

NAPLAN exams are a polarising thing. Some parents place a huge amount of value on it, whilst others don’t pay attention to it at all. I’ve even met some parents who won’t let their children sit them to avoid the associated stress and anxiety (which they are perfectly entitled to do).

The reality is there is a lot of pressure around NAPLAN exams – especially for students in years 3 and 5. They hear about NAPLAN from their teachers, families and even on the news, so whilst they may not fully understand what it is, they know it is a big deal. I’ve worked with students as young as year 3 who were genuinely stressing out about the exam – which is so concerning to see from someone at that age.

This brings to question – does NAPLAN really matter? Is there even a point behind it?

Here are some thoughts on this:

It is a great opportunity to see how your child handles the testing environment – but standardised testing always has its limitations.

For students in years 3, 5 and 7, the testing environment of NAPLAN will be a unique experience. There aren’t too many opportunities before high school for students to pile in to a silent hall or classroom and be told to sit there quietly for the entirety of the exam. They colour in little bubbles with a pencil and hope that their choice is the best answer. Exam management is a skill that needs to be learnt – as it is something they will get very used to beyond year 7. If they can handle this environment well, they are more likely to excel in exams later on in High School.

However, so often we see that NAPLAN does not reflect the true potential of a student, and this is usually because of the black and white nature of standardised testing. It is right and wrong with no room for discussion in between. Some students just don’t handle this well – they will see multiple possibilities instead of one clear answer (ironically a great skills set to have later in life), but this style of exam punishes this way of thinking.

It reveals how they are placed in their grade – although, school reports do this much better.

NAPLAN is about comparison – which can be a helpful tool – but is not always healthy. I’ve seen too many students lose their confidence after getting a disappointing NAPLAN result and realising they are in the bottom quartile of their school. If this can be used as a motivator then I think it has plenty of value – but unfortunately that might only be the case for the top 50% of students.

A far better indicator is the end of year report. Unlike NAPLAN which attempts to identify your child after an hour of colouring in multiple choice bubbles, the report will take in to consideration what your child has accomplished throughout the year. It will allow them to explore different skills and find their strengths and identify their weaknesses.

When given a choice between a NAPLAN report and a school report to indicate a student’s true performance, I always choose the school report.

It shows where they are in the state – but this can be so heavily swayed it can be hard to find benefit.

It can be helpful to see where your student performs against other students their age, but this needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

There are so many unknown external factors that can influence these rankings.

For example, how can a small rural school with one class per grade be compared to a huge private school in the eastern suburbs with endless resources. I’ve heard of many schools doing weeks of NAPLAN preparation to boost their school’s mark (therefore being more attractive to potential students in the future) – whilst some won’t even mention it until the day before. I’ve even heard stories of – and this is terrible – some school asking students not to turn up on NAPLAN days to prevent them bringing down their school average.

The one good thing it does, and in my opinion the best thing NAPLAN does, is reveal what your child should know at their relevant level. NAPLAN is not like the selective school exam – it is very possible for a student to get 100%, and the exams are written to make this achievable. Adhering to the national curriculums, each exam should only test students up to what they should already know, so the papers are a great indication of where your child is placed based against the content taught in previous years.

In my opinion, NAPLAN has value; in introducing young students to exam environments and in seeing if they are up to date with the curriculum at their level – but I think the idea of using it to compare one student to others is flawed.

The main thing you want to see is year on year improvement from your child. You want to be able to compare their year 5 and year 7 papers, and see an improvement in year 7. The best comparative is always against ourselves, and this way you are using your own child as the benchmark. Their little black dot should be higher on the chart than last time – that way you know they have improved.

We can help make that little black dot higher. The support of a private tutor is the very best thing you can do for your child in the lead up to NAPLAN – they will grow in confidence, get accustomed to the styles of questions, and ultimately walk in to (and out of) that exam with their head held high.

Book your first free session with an Alchemy tutor at http://alchemytuition.com.au.


3 ways to get your children back in the zone

Well term 1 is well under way for the year!

There is always a ‘start of the year haze’ for students that often lingers until week 4 or 5. It’s a combination of things – the foreign feeling of holding a pen again, the waking up before midday and the odd sensation of having a routine in their day.

It’s a completely normal experience for students to have.

But the danger is that 4 or 5 weeks is enough time to get left behind. School curriculums are so tightly packed that they can miss a huge chunk of content of they aren’t focussed in and in the zone.

Here are 3 ways to ensure that your children are learning and performing at their best:

Replace half an hour of TV/video  game time with half an hour of reading time.

I say this all the time, but few things will benefit a child like consistent reading. It is true for students from kindergarten up to year 12. By pulling out a book for 30 minutes a day, students will be activating their creativity, improving their grammar and spelling, and learning to unplug from the electronic world that we are surrounded with.

Whilst you might get some resistance from older students, if they find the right book it won’t be a chore at all.

For the first few weeks, help them get extra sleep.

There is a good chance that their sleeping patterns will be all over the place following school holidays. They were probably enjoying later nights, longer sleep ins and for many who were fortunate enough to go overseas, confronting different time zones.

For the first few weeks of term, give them more sleep than they normally need. This really means they have to go to bed earlier.

It will be tough, but if you get them doing their 30 minutes of reading time before bed it will naturally slow down their bodies rhythms and make falling asleep much easier.

Have someone to keep them focussed and motivated.

The support of a private tutor is second to none when it comes to getting students in the zone. The tutor is not a teacher, an authority figure telling them what to do. Nor are they a parent who they are likely to clash with. They are someone who is there on their side wanting the best for them.

Giving your child the one on one support of a private tutor is the best thing you can do for them. What we do is so much more than just getting better marks – it is total academic mentoring that will allow your child to see their full potential.

If you haven’t already organised a session between your child and their tutor, you can do so by getting in touch or booking your first free session here.

Fight the start of the year haze and give your children the best start to 2017.


Making the first session special

With so many first sessions scheduled in the next week or so, I wanted to share 3 ways you can make the first session special for your student, ultimately proving you are the tutor for the job!

Remember that this first session is so important to get right – it is basically like a mini job interview where you need to prove to the family that you are the best tutor possible. And whilst I know you are, it’s about showing this in as many ways as possible!

1. Smile

A smile says so much. Les Brown said that “your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you.” And it is so true. Nothing can disarm quite like a smile. The moment you knock on that door, start smiling. Your student wants to view you as a breath of fresh air. They might have had a rough day at school, but the moment they see your smile that will all be forgotten.

2. Be super prepared

Go armed with ideas for the session, so you can determine exactly what the student needs to focus on. What you prepare depends on what you are helping the students with – the first session for a year 5 student will be totally different for an HSC student. But here is what I usually follow as my first lesson plan:

  • welcome and introduce myself to parents and student
  • discuss the needs with the parent
  • chat with students – try to find a shared interest
  • do a selection of relevant activities (like respond to comprehension questions, do some writing or jump around an exam paper)
  • watch and observe how the student responds – identify where they struggle
  • lay encouragement on them – let them know how much potential they have
  • finish up about ten minutes early so you can talk with the parents and discuss how you can help
  • speak like there will be a next time and give the student a fist bump as you leave!

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail! Make sure you are ready for that first session by being fully prepared.

3. Be vulnerable

It is not out goal to be viewed as an untouchable expert on a subject – of course, you can prove that you know what you are talking about, but you want to be seen as someone they can relate to – someone they can trust. Don’t put up a wall of achievement. Make yourself relatable by being vulnerable – share your struggles. Reveal who you are – talk about your passions and your life. A good tutor will be a role model by how they live, and not just what they say.

There are plenty more tips in the tutor portal, but these are just 3 that are worth revisiting as you prepare for your first session. Make it incredible!